Data governance: With big data comes big responsibility

ORLANDO – No one says customers need to make sense. New research says they want a more personalized, data-driven experience – but you’d better respect their privacy. How do you bridge these two poles? Strong data governance.

At its Premier Business Leadership conference on Wednesday, SAS Institute released the results of a study of U.S. consumers on how organizations are using their personal data. While 71 per cent said recent stories about government access to personal data in the U.S. had increased their privacy concerns, 60 per cent said they still expect organizations to both know their personal preferences and understand their needs.

Who expects more personalized communications? The wealthy, with 67 per cent of those earning more than $100,000 a year saying they expect businesses to understand them. Also, young people, with 66 per cent of those under 30 saying the same. Both demographics were also more likely to report improved personalization and fewer irrelevant messages.

“Personalization is being treated as individuals,” said Wilson Raj, global director for customer intelligence with SAS. “It’s not just personal messages, but their preferred method of communication, and being consistent in the consumer’s journey with the company through different channels.”

Most organizations have privacy policies, but Raj said it’s important it’s supported by a data strategy. Internally at SAS, on the marketing side Raj said they docus on data management, not just data quality. The governance behind it: who uses what, what for, and what their objectives are. When formalized, data management policies can be tied to usage.

“We need great analytics AND great data management,” said Raj. “A lot of folks are cluing in and are seeing data management not as a boring evil thing, but an integral part of getting good results.”

With the amount of data and personal information that organizations have at their fingertips today, and now newer, more powerful analytics tools to leverage that data, one could see analytics vendors like SAS as the new arms dealers. It’s a comparison SAS senior vice-president CMO Jim Davis rejects, but he does admit the tools are powerful, and need to be used in the right way.

Take life sciences, he said. With the unraveling of the human genome allowing the creation of individually targeted drugs, the same drug that will save one person could kill another. Data could be used to discriminate for employment purposes – based on your health profile, you’re too much of a medical risk for financial reasons.

“It’s the world we live in,” said Davis. “The tools are more powerful, and it’s up to users of the tools not to violate privacy concerns.”

At Canada Post, SAS has helped the crown corporation set up its own processes and policies around data governance. Canada Post uses SAS analytics tools, and makes use of an extensive database of commercial and personal information for everything from setting parcel rates to providing lists to marketing clients.

James Smith, director of digital data asset with Canada Post, said SAS has influenced and educated Canada Post around how to implement and run data governance, and the first steps are now in place.

“That means there’s data policy, there’s data stewards with roles and responsibilities, data is catalogued, and people have been educated on the importance and value of a data strategy,” said Smith. “It means you handle data in a way where quality is foremost, data issues are resolved, and data escalation on issues is managed.

Smith said the key to Canada Post’s successful implementation of a data governance strategy was buy-in from the C-suite, with C-level representation on the committee driving the process helping to ensure buy-in has occurred throughout the organization. If parts of an organization were to hold onto their data outside the governance process, a data governance policy wouldn’t work. And the output of good data governance benefits the whole organization.

“It’s really around data quality, data-driven strategies and increased products, time to market benefits, and cost savings around the lack of data redundancy,” said Smith of the benefits. “The value in data governance is significant.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
As an assistant editor at IT World Canada, Jeff Jedras contributes primarily to CDN and, covering the reseller channel and the small and medium-sized business space.

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